During last week’s record cold weather, Joe Williams delivered blankets and food to camps of homeless people in Fort Mill and Rock Hill — and probably helped keep these people alive.
Williams, 52, a volunteer with Christians Feed the Hungry, also helped the charity give meals to thousands during the holiday season.
When a neighbor’s baby died at Oak Hollow Apartments in early December, Williams went door-to-door to collect donations for her mother.
Williams did all this despite being out of work with colon cancer — and the surgery and the chemotherapy to treat it. He helped others last week, and before and since, despite being on the verge of potential homelessness himself.
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“Those people we helped this week, this was the worst cold in memory,” Williams said. “It could have been deadly. I couldn’t worry about myself when those people had nobody else.”
Williams worked for years as an assistant to medical staff — an orderly — at Piedmont Medical Center before he was diagnosed with cancer in August. Before that he worked at the old Divine Saviour hospital in York, his hometown.
After surgery and treatment, severance pay and benefits did not last forever. People who worked with him at the hospital and others did what they could to help out, but as 2013 came to a close, Williams had little money to pay the rent for his small apartment. The light bill kept coming. The car insurance bill kept coming. Williams concedes he is even behind on child support payments.
Bills come in even as money does not.
Williams has applied for disability and rent assistance, and he plans to go back to work when he can. But for right now, he is a person in limbo.
“People have been so good to me, and my landlord, too,” Williams said, “but I owe.”
Williams blames no one for his money troubles and makes no excuses for where his financial status is now — under a roof about to collapse from debts. Still, he spent his own money, just a few singles, on gasoline this week so he could make deliveries to people even worse off than himself.
During the holiday season, Williams was vital to the success of Feed the Hungry Ministries, said the Rev. Ronal King, the ministry’s founder. And this past week, when the cold threatened the safety of many, Williams again stepped up when the need was crucial.
“Joe Williams may have saved lives this week — that’s how important what he did for the homeless and hungry was,” King said. “He went and found those people who could have suffered from exposure. He collected donations and delivered them. He delivered blankets.
“He is a godsend, and he is doing it even though he doesn’t have enough for himself.”
Even with his own troubles, Williams finds solace in the big Bible that sits on his coffee table. It is open to a passage from the Gospel of Matthew. His finger finds the chapter and verse.
“The harvest is plenty, but laborers are few,” Williams reads.
“If God needs laborers, and people to help others, then that is what I must do,” he said. “There is not anything that says only healthy people with extra money can help others.
“We all can help, so that is what I do.”